As we write the Across series, and the series we’re calling Grey Goose, we think about magic. It’s a tricky business, and we’re reminded of what happened to Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica. The Argonautica is, basically, the story of how Jason assembled a group of heroes and went to find and bring back to Greece the golden fleece. In Apollonius’ time, it was already an old story. Because he was working with traditional material, then, and clearly felt obliged to do so, Apollonius included of all the heroes traditionally said to have been on the Argo. At the same time, this left him with a dilemma: one of those heroes was Heracles. Imagine having such a powerful figure on the ship– was there any need for anybody else? The thought obviously occurred to Apollonius, because he removed Heracles as quickly as he could.
The thought must also have occurred to JRRT when he was writing The Hobbit. After all, he had a wizard along on the trip to the Lonely Mountain. We presume that the focus of the book is upon Bilbo, however, and his spiritual growth from Baggins to Took, as he is challenged again and again to go beyond what he thinks he knows about himself. With a wizard along, just like Heracles in the Argonautica, what chance is there for Bilbo ever to prove himself? And so, where do we see Gandalf actually do anything magical? He can show the way with a lighted staff, and he can set fire to pinecones, but, for most of the book, he either simply travels along, or he has simply disappeared.
And so, we come to our books. In Across the Doubtful Sea, we have, on the one side, people with strong religious beliefs, the Matan’a’e Amavi’o– the people of the goddess, Matan’a’e. Although they have the power of their goddess and their other gods, they are forced to rely almost entirely on themselves because we feel it is important that our protagonists prove themselves with only minimal divine help. Thus, we follow in the path of JRRT here.
The principal antagonists, however, are a different matter. These are the Atuk, whose god gives his principal followers tremendous magical powers, but powers which are limited to the forces of winter (rather like the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Thus, they can be fought, in a sense, just the way Aslan fights the White Witch with the opposite of cold, heat.
As our series continues, we will have more to say on the subject of magic and gods.
Thank you, as always, for reading!